Top Democrat presses IRS for improvements to web tool on child tax credit

Top Democrat presses IRS for improvements to web tool on child tax credit
© Greg Nash

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOn The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June Top Democrat presses IRS for improvements to web tool on child tax credit Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee MORE (D-Ore.) on Thursday pressed the IRS for improvements to a web tool that allows low-income families to register for the new monthly child tax credit payments.

"If this inadequacy is not rectified, millions of American families could be denied the opportunity to provide a more secure future for their children and break the cycle of poverty for so many," Wyden wrote in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

The IRS last week sent out the first batch of the monthly advanced child tax credit payments that were authorized by President BidenJoe BidenOvernight Defense: Senate panel adds B to Biden's defense budget | House passes bill to streamline visa process for Afghans who helped US | Pentagon confirms 7 Colombians arrested in Haiti leader's killing had US training On The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE's coronavirus relief law. The agency will make monthly payments on or near the 15th of each month through the end of the year. Families are eligible for monthly payments of up to $300 for each child under six and up to $250 for each child ages six to 17.

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Families who filed 2019 or 2020 tax returns are receiving the monthly payments automatically. However, some families who are not required to file tax returns, typically because they have low incomes, need to use an IRS web tool to sign up for the payments. 

Democratic lawmakers and officials at nonprofits have raised concerns the IRS web tool could be hard for non-filers to use because it is not mobile-friendly or available in Spanish.

"While I deeply appreciate the tireless work of the dedicated staff at the IRS to quickly stand up this critical resource, I am concerned that technological and design constraints on the portal will prevent America’s most vulnerable communities—those who make so little income they previously did not file—from even applying for this important funding," Wyden said.

"This is because, as has become all too apparent over the course of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, many of the most vulnerable families in this country only access the internet via their mobile devices," the senator added. "Yet, the portal does not account for this reality, and is not optimized to work on mobile devices, or in languages other than English."

Wyden said that a law enacted in 2018 requires new and redesigned websites of federal agencies to be mobile-friendly. He said the intent of that law applies to the non-filer tool, even though the IRS worked with Intuit and the Free File Alliance of private-sector tax-preparation companies on the portal.

"I urge the IRS to direct Intuit and the Free File Alliance to update the existing Non-filer Sign-up Tool, or find a different solution, to ensure this country’s most vulnerable working families, including those who do not speak English or only have a mobile device, have access to the Child Tax Credit," Wyden said.